Trump urges Congress to approve USMCA in State of the Union address

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-06 16:05:32|Editor: ZX
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday urged the Congress to approve the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

In his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill on Tuesday night, Trump said he hoped the Congress could pass the USMCA into law to bring back manufacturing jobs, expand American agriculture, protect intellectual property and boost the U.S. auto industry.

The USMCA, signed by leaders of the three countries on Nov. 30 in Argentina, still needs to be ratified by lawmakers of the three countries before going into effect. The deal faces a tough road ahead in a split Congress.

Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who took the role of House Speaker in early January, has repeatedly expressed deep concerns over the deal's enforceability, especially related to labor and environment protection.

For example, the USMCA requires at least 40 percent of car production to come from factories with an average wage of 16 U.S. dollars per hour, which might increase costs of cars made in the USMCA region.

Meanwhile, a number of lawmakers and business groups have been pushing for the removal of U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico. Even some Republican lawmakers said they would not move to vote on the agreement until the steel and aluminum tariffs are eliminated.

After the signing by the three leaders, the U.S. International Trade Commission will have up to 105 days to complete a report on the economic impact of the agreement, which could be ready by mid-March. Many lawmakers are still waiting to see the analysis before making a final judgment.

If the USMCA goes to Congress, it will face a simple yes-or-no vote under the so-called "fast-track" law, a 2015 trade legislation, with no amendments or procedural delays allowed.

However, the Democrats-controlled House can challenge that by introducing a rule to remove the deal from fast-track consideration, which could lead to a prolonged debate about possible "tweaks" of the deal.

Analysts said Democrats are unlikely to reject the new deal completely, as there is no available alternative. Trump has threatened to unilaterally pull out of NAFTA if the new deal fails to get through Congress.